A recent article on CNN from atheist blogger, Deborah Mitchell, claimed that raising children without God is better than raising children with God. Mrs. Mitchell lists seven reasons why she raises her children not to believe in God. These reasons are:
- God is a bad parent and role model
- God is not logical
- God is not fair
- God does not protect the innocent
- God is not present
- God does not teach children to be good
- God teaches narcissism
I’d like to briefly address each one of these objections to God’s existence (or character). Keep in mind, however, that though I will present biblical answers to these challenges, many readers will likely not like the answers. In every question we have about God, in every challenge we have about him, we must remember that God is sovereign. He does what he wishes, when he wishes, for his own purposes, and he is not obligated to give us the feel-good answers we seek. We, however, are obligated to accept God’s answers since we are the creature, not the Creator, and we are all accountable to him for what we think, feel, say, and do. God is not accountable to us or to our ideas of right, wrong, or fairness. We are accountable to him.
God Is A Bad Parent And Role Model
Mrs. Mitchell states, “If God is our father, then he is not a good parent.” Mitchell’s first mistake, which carries through to the rest of her article, is the assumption that God is everyone’s father. But the Bible, which she criticizes, does not tell us God is everyone’s father. Relationally speaking, he is only the father of those who have been adopted into his family through Christ (Romans 8:15). Anyone who does not have Christ does not have the Father and therefore is not God’s child in special relationship to him (I John 2:23).
She goes on to stay, “Good people don’t stand by and watch horrible acts committed against innocent men, women and children.” I would tend to agree with Mrs. Mitchell on this point if it refers to humanity. But the scripture actually recognizes that we are not good (Luke 18:19). In fact, the scripture condemns us for not doing good when it is in our power to help someone (Deuteronomy 15:7; I John 3:17; James 2:15-16).
Even though the scripture requires us to act, God is not obligated to intervene supernaturally on behalf of anyone. This is because God cannot be obligated by us. He is God, we are not. Secondly, Mrs. Mitchell conveniently forgets that God has already acted when it comes to worldly injustices. He has done this in two ways: First, God gave us a law in Exodus through Deuteronomy that specifically tells us what to do when evil is committed against others. We are to act. It is our responsibility to act, not God’s. We are made in his image and it is we who have been charged by God with the care of the world and society (Genesis 1:28). Man’s failure to act does not oblige God to make up for man’s rebellion and sin.
Second, God did act to begin the process of correcting the injustices of the world. His second chosen action was to send Jesus who modeled life for us, then paid for our sin (all manner of moral injustices) so that we could be forgiven and begin the process of changing our lives to become more of the person God intends for us to be. Our most critical need is to deal with the sin issue that we all face, through which we all commit various kinds of injustices. The Law of Moses did this, partially, but the sacrifice of Jesus was necessary to deal with the issue more fully.
Though many injustices seem to be unanswered now, this does not mean that God is not going to correct those injustices in the future. The Christian lives in hope that at the end of days God will, to put it in an oversimplified manner, even the score. The scripture recognizes this delayed justice. “Do not fret because of him who prospers in his way, because of the man who carries out wicked schemes. Cease from anger and forsake wrath; do not fret; it leads only to evildoing. For evildoers will be cut off, but those who wait for the Lord, they will inherit the land. Yet a little while and the wicked man will be no more” (Psalm 37:7-10).
God is not on our timetable when it comes to righting the world’s wrongs.
God Is Not Logical
Ironically, I agree with Mrs. Mitchell’s point about man’s responsibility to address evil. She says, “If there is a good, all-knowing, all-powerful God who loves his children, does it make sense that he would allow murders, child abuse, wars, brutal beatings, torture and millions of heinous acts to be committed throughout the history of mankind?…The question we should be asking is this: ‘Why did we allow this to happen?’ How can we fix this?”
I agree with her that it is man’s responsibility to address these issues. However, just because evil exists it does not automatically follow that a good God therefore does not exist. All of us are evil. In fact, we are evil to the core though we have some ability to do good things (Matthew 19:17). The Bible tells us how evil we are (Jeremiah 17:9). Mrs. Mitchell’s statement that a good God cannot exist if evil exists is not logical. Mrs. Mitchell is evil. I am evil. Everyone is evil. But we have the capacity to do good things (Matthew 7:11).
God Is Not Fair
Mrs. Mitchell asks, “If God is fair, then why does he answer the silly prayers of some while allowing other, serious requests, to go unanswered?… If God is fair, then why are some babies born with heart defects, autism, missing limbs or conjoined to another baby?” These are issues that man has struggled with for all time. For centuries Christians have tried to answer this issue to the satisfaction of the unbeliever, hoping that person will see reason and come to Christ. But there is one problem with this approach that is undeniable.
Life is not fair. God never promised life would be fair. God is not obligated to act according to our definition of fairness. The Apostle Paul addresses this in Roman’s 9:20-21, “Who are you, O man, who answers back to God? The thing molded will not say to the molder, ‘Why did you make me like this,’ will it? Or does not the potter have a right over the clay, to make from the same lump one vessel for honorable use and another for common use?”
God told Job something similar when Job sought to justify himself before God. In Job 38 God essentially says to Job, “Who do you think you are?”
This is not an answer that we like. Tough. That’s just the way it is. God is not obligated by us to say or do anything for any reason. We may think this is unfair, but none of us have the long view of history or humanity that God has. He knows our beginnings and our endings. To those who love him there awaits a great reward of seeing him and serving him forever. But to those who reject him, he will also reject. Why is it that we think God is obligated to right all our wrongs right now when we spit in his face? Clearly, God is not unfair. We are the ones who look at God and want to put unfair conditions upon him.
God Does Not Protect The Innocent
Mrs. Mitchell asks, “Why can’t God, with all his powers of omnipotence, protect the innocent?” She makes a leap in judgment by connecting the suffering of people with an inability to act on God’s part. But God has acted, as stated earlier. He acted through Law, giving us responsibility over the injustices in the world. “He has told you, O man, what is good; and what does the Lord require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God” (Micah 6:8).
He Is Not Present
This, of course, is Mrs. Mitchell’s assumption throughout her article. If God does not do what we want him to do then, she reasons, God does not exist. This is foolish. A person born out of wedlock who never meets his father cannot reason that his father does not exist because he did not have his presence. So too, the unbeliever who rejects God because he doesn’t feel his presence assumes too much. “God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble” (Psalm 46:1). Only those who know God through Christ can know his abiding presence.
God Does Not Teach Children to Be Good
Mrs. Mitchell states, “A child should make moral choices for the right reasons. Telling him that he must behave because God is watching means that his morality will be externally focused rather than internally structured.” Mrs. Mitchell cannot have it both ways. First she asserts that God is not present, then she criticizes the notion that an external God urging good behavior is a wrong way to teach good morals. But as we’ve already seen, man’s heart is wicked (Jeremiah 17:1). Goodness, therefore, does not come from within, it comes from without. We have the capacity to do good, but we cannot conquer our own evil apart from Christ. Only the indwelling Holy Spirit can work out a new morality from within. God promised this in Jeremiah 31:33, “I will put My law within them and on their heart I will write it; and I will be their God, and they shall be My people.”
Mrs. Mitchell’s logic is also flawed in this claim. All good that we learn is learned from outside us. We learn if from our parents. We learn it from our teachers and peers. We learn it from the laws in our society. We learn it from philosophy. Her claims in this regard hold no water.
God Teaches Narcissism
Here Mrs. Mitchell claims, “Telling kids there is a big guy in the sky who has a special path for them makes children narcissistic.” On the contrary, telling children that they are specially created by God to be like him inculcates the idea of responsibility, something to measure up to, a standard to be realized. God says in Leviticus 11:44, “Be holy because I am holy.” That is not narcissism, that is a higher purpose to achieve.
Jesus said, “You are to be perfect, even as your Father in heaven is perfect” (Matthew 5:48). This is not narcissism, this is a recognition that we have something to live up to. But all of this is to be done with an attitude of humility. “I say to everyone among you not to think more highly of himself than he ought to think; but to think so as to have sound judgment” (Romans 12:3). The Apostle Paul also says, “Do nothing from selfishness or empty conceit, but with humility of mind regard one another as more important than yourselves; do not merely look out for your own personal interests, but also for the interests of others” (Philippians 4:3-4). This is not narcissism by any definition.
There are lots of people who have raised their kids without God and raised respectable kids. But, without Jesus those same kids hold no hope of eternal life without their sins forgiven. So too, there are plenty of Christian parents who try and raise their kids in church and reading the scripture and to have a spiritual view of life—and their kids sometimes turn out rotten. There is no guarantee, either way, about the outcome of our kids lives. But to purposefully and intentionally oppose a loving God’s influence on your family is a different matter altogether. One can hope and pray for Mrs. Mitchell’s kids, because from time to time a miraculous change of heart can happen.